Wisden honour for Smith, Williamson, Bairstow, Stokes & McCullum
The quintet is completed by the England duo of all-rounder Ben Stokes and Jonathan Bairstow.
In the personal gift of the editor of cricket’s ‘bible’, which has been published annually since 1864, a player can only be named as a ‘Cricketer of the Year’ once in his career.
Generally, the award is decided on players’ performances in the previous English season and Australia’s Smith was included when, despite his side being beaten 3-2 in the Ashes, he emerged as the series’ leading run-scorer with a double century at Lord’s and 143 at The Oval in the visitors’ two wins.
The 2016 edition also saw New Zealand batsman Williamson named as the Leading Cricketer in the World after his 2,692 international runs across the formats in 2015 – the third-highest annual aggregate ever.
McCullum, who retired this year, was included as much for his bold captaincy as his aggressive batting, with New Zealand’s dynamic approach widely reckoned to have helped transform England’s play in both Test and one-day cricket as well.
Williamson and McCullum were not the only New Zealanders honoured by Wisden, with compatriot Suzie Bates chosen as the women’s Leading Cricketer.
Stokes was one of the stars of England’s Ashes success, while wicketkeeper/batsman Bairstow also played his part as well as helping Yorkshire win the County Championship.
During England’s recent tour of South Africa, the pair shared a monumental stand of 399 which featured Stokes’s blistering 258 and Bairstow’s maiden Test century.
Wisden editor Lawrence Booth praised England for their revival after their embarrassingly early exit at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“There would be rapids down river, but the players were now approaching them head on, not paddling round the edge, quoting the percentage chance of falling in,” he wrote.
“Records fell like confetti. England passed 400 for the first time in a one-day international, and knocked off 350 in another. They made their highest one-day score overseas, in Dubai (355 for five), then smashed it a few weeks later, in Bloemfontein (399 for nine). Jos Buttler scored a hundred off 66 balls, then — as if to make up for his tardiness — off 46.
“Stuart Broad took eight for 15 as Australia were demolished for 60 at Trent Bridge, then six for 17 to skittle South Africa for 83 at Johannesburg. The two most resonant national records fell one after the other: in Antigua, Jimmy Anderson overtook Ian Botham’s Test-wickets haul, and went on past 400; at Leeds, Alastair Cook surpassed Graham Gooch’s Test-runs tally, and approached 10,000…It was the most uplifting story in international cricket all year, the more so for being utterly unexpected.”